16th June 2022
‘True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice’.
Martin Luther King Jr
HOM: Gathering data through all the senses
Over the past two terms as a part of the GCSE religious studies course we have been studying the ethics of war and peace. This year more than at any other time, our consideration of these issues has seemed more pressing as we have watched the unfolding conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
Our senses have been bombarded by imagery which has been truly disturbing and it has been important to make sure students are not overwhelmed by this and to look for signs of hope and ways in which people can help.
Of course as a result of war people become displaced and populations find themselves on the move and so this week we will mark refugee week. This is a UK-wide festival celebrating the contributions, creativity and resilience of refugees and people seeking sanctuary. Through a programme of arts, cultural, sports and educational events alongside media and creative campaigns, Refugee Week enables people from different backgrounds to connect beyond labels, as well as encouraging understanding of why people are displaced, and the challenges they face when seeking safety.
And this year the plight of refugees has much greater resonance since within our own Wychwood community, I know of families who have practically reached out and offered hospitality to Ukrainians seeking sanctuary in Britain. Such people are real beacons of hope in desperate times.
Ukrainians of course are not the only people seeking peace and escape from war and injustice, although not all will experience an equal reception. As I write this there are displaced people who have risked their lives to reach Britain but who may now find themselves deported to Rwanda by the British government. People are divided on the ethics of this decision although religious leaders, the European court and even Prince Charles (unofficially) have condemned it as unethical.
How we treat those who are displaced is perhaps a mark of our civility as a nation and at the moment Britain is being tested. Let’s hope during this Refugee Week the Biblical injunctions regarding hospitality will be taken into account:
“Treat the foreigner as your native-born,” Leviticus 19 says. “Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God”. It’s a commandment echoed in Deuteronomy 10: “You shall love the stranger because you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” And, later in the Old Testament, God’s prophets remind Israel and Judah that God will judge them based on how they care for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger’.
Peace is not just achieved when a refugee escapes conflict but when they receive hospitality and justice.